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Mace on the move

Paul Bickford
Northern News Services
Monday, May 28, 2007

FORT RESOLUTION - If the NWT's legislative assembly had to meet on May 24, it would have been in Fort Resolution.

That's because the legislature's mace - the symbol of the political authority of the legislative assembly and its speaker - was at Deninu School as part of an outreach tour initiated by Paul Delorey, the current speaker of the assembly.

NNSL Photo/Graphic

Tianna Simon, a Grade 5 student at Fort Resolution's Deninu school, looks over the mace of the legislative assembly with Premier Joe Handley, during a territorial government outreach visit on May 24. - Paul Bickford/NNSL photo

No meeting of the assembly can be held without the mace.

That was one of the things Grade 11 student Dean Aviugana learned during the visit of the mace, which was accompanied by Delorey, Premier Joe Handley and other officials.

"It's pretty cool because I'm into politics," said Aviugana of the visit.

April Lizotte, a Grade 12 student, said the visit was something different for Deninu school.

"It was a really cool experience," she said.

Principal Moh Odeen thinks the mace tour is an excellent idea.

"The kids learned so much," he said. "It brings government closer to the kids."

Along with displaying the mace, the tour provides information on how the legislative assembly works.

For example, students were encouraged to participate in a debate about alcohol abuse similar to one in the legislative assemble. They even passed a couple of motions.

While students were interested in the debate, others had unique questions about the legislature.

Delorey said he developed the outreach program to bring the territorial government and the mace closer to the people.

The speaker said it is surprising how many people have never seen the mace, especially those from smaller communities.

"It represents you as much as it represents someone who lives in Yellowknife," he told the students.

Delorey said the response to the tour, especially in the smaller communities has been excellent.

"They really soak it up and appreciate it."

The visit to Fort Resolution included Brian Thagard, the sergeant-at-arms of the legislative assembly; Tim Mercer, the clerk of the legislative assembly; and Tu Nedhe MLA Bobby Villeneuve.

The next trip for the mace is likely to be in August to either Holman or Sachs Harbour.

While Delorey plans to run in this fall's territorial election, he said no one knows who will be speaker in the next legislative session.

"My wish would be that this program continues until the mace visits every community in the Northwest Territories at least once," Delorey said.

Handley said such tours are a good chance for government officials to explain their roles to the people, especially students.

The trip to Fort Resolution, and a stop the day before in Hay River, was only the second time the mace had left the legislative assembly.

In Hay River, the mace appeared at Princess Alexandra school, and a viewing session for the general public was held at the Legion.

The outreach program began last year with the mace's first trip to Whati.